What Is a Tagline?

Learn what a tagline is and use one in your marketing

Young business professionals meeting
••• Getty Images / Thomas Barwick

A tagline is a short, memorable phrase that is used throughout your marketing. It should convey the main sentiment or feeling that you want people to associate with your brand.

A good tagline becomes a cultural reference. Phrases like McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" or Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" are examples of taglines that entered the public consciousness and served as constant reminders of the products and companies associated with them.

The Purpose of a Tagline in Marketing

Taglines are designed to leave a lasting impression in a short period of time. Unlike many other forms of marketing, they don't always convey direct information about either your company or products. Their value in marketing is that they are easily remembered and appeal to customers on an emotional level.

A good tagline leaves a customer with a sense of how your company fits into their life, their relationships, or how they see themselves. "Open Happiness" tells customers how drinking Coca-Cola will make them feel. "Think Different" tells Apple customers what sets them apart from other consumers. Both taglines accomplish this using only two words.

Once you create a tagline, it can be used in all forms of marketing, including print, radio, and tv advertising; social media; brochures; websites; and more. The more you use your tagline, the more it becomes a memorable part of your brand.

Different Tagline Styles

Depending on the emotion or amount of information that you want to convey, your tagline can take a variety of styles.

  1. Humorous taglines present an idea by using sayings and phrases that will entertain the audience. The Pringles tagline, "Once you pop, the fun don't stop," used a playful rhythm and word choice to communicate a sense of fun and childishness.
  2. Serious taglines invoke overwhelming emotions or encourage consumers to take action. The tagline for DeBeers, "A diamond is forever," conveys the serious emotional commitment associated with becoming engaged and then married.
  3. Aspirational taglines evoke a sense of luxury and worthiness. Rather than sharing information about any products, the L'Oreal tagline, "Because you're worth it," encouraged consumers to think of the brand's makeup as something they deserved to own.
  4. Informational taglines quickly communicate the core benefits of a product. The tagline for Bounty paper towels, "The quicker picker-upper," not only tells customers exactly what the product does, it is catchy and memorable because of its rhythm and rhyme.

Jingle vs Tagline

Jingles are part of an extended category of taglines. Some, but not all, jingles are taglines.

Whether or not a jingle is a tagline depends on its length. If the jingle is short with a catchy, easy tune, it's both a jingle and a tagline. These are versatile in marketing and can be used many more places than a full song can. McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" campaign is a successful example of a tagline that is also a jingle.

Jingles can be an expensive marketing technique due to audio production and airtime, but they can be highly effective when they're used correctly. Oscar Mayer, for example, created a lasting cultural reference with its catchy, "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" jingle.

How to Develop a Tagline

To create a strong tagline, you first need to understand your target customer and what will move them to make a purchase. Once you know who you are talking to, you can start developing language that will speak to them.

  1. Decide what tone and style are a good fit for your brand.
  2. Develop a list of emotions that you want your customers to associate with your brand or products.
  3. Brainstorm dynamic verbs that will move your audience toward taking action.
  4. Spell out a simple solution to a problem that your customers are facing.

As you develop your tagline, use simple, clear language. Avoid phrases that are bland, vague, or meaningless. Focus on a friendly approach that will build a lasting connection with your customers. Use descriptive words that convey emotion, but make sure they are easily understood and remembered.

No matter what type of tagline you develop, the goal should be to create something that is efficient, emotional, and memorable.